ESC advice for Downlighter Safety(2): reflector types and checking your existing downlighters

  2011-03-10         admin
This article is the second part of the Electrical Safety Council Advice for Downlighter Safety guide - found online as a PDF via, Downlighter Safety leaflet. Read the first part of the article via, ESC advice for Downlighter Safety(1): types of downlighters and tips for installing new downlighters. In this article you can find out more information regarding the types of lamps and reflectors a downlighter takes(whether a fixed downlight or an adjustable downlight), some of the markings found on the downlighters, and some tips for checking your existing downlighters.

Different Downlighter lamp types

  • Twist and lock Mains (230 Volts)
  • Push fit ELV (12 Volts)

Downlighter Reflector types

The dichroic and aluminium halogen lamps operate differently from each other but appear identical. It is possible to fit either type in an extra-low voltage downlighter. However, fitting the wrong lamp type can cause overheating, so it’s important to choose the correct type. The type of lamp determines which way the heat generated by the lamp is reflected.

Dichroic or cool beam

Reflects visible light forwards while allowing radiated heat to pass out of the back of the lamp – to be used in downlighters specifically designed for their use only.


Reflects both the visible light and most of the heat forwards out of the front of the lamp.

Markings to look for on Downlighters

  • Do not use ‘cool beam’ dichroic reflector halogen lamps in this downlighter.
  • Minimum distance from lighted objects.
  • Only ‘self-shielded’ lamps can be fitted in this downlighter. The majority of halogen lamps have a protective shield, which blocks UV (ultraviolet) radiation and protects against the risk of the lamp shattering.
  • Lamp (or transformer) is not suitable for use with a dimmer switch.

Tips for Checking your Existing Downlighters

  • Check for visible markings on downlighters indicating lamp wattage and lamp type
  • Check downlighters and their surroundings for signs of overheating such as curled labels and discolouration or scorching
  • Ensure that downlighters installed in floor and ceiling cavities have sufficient space around them
  • Ensure that downlighters (and associated transformer where fitted) are not in contact with or covered by loft insulation or combustible material, unless they are designed to operate safely in those conditions.
  • Check that downlighters are not installed near furniture, curtains or similar combustible items
  • If dichroic (cool beam) lamps are fitted in downlighters designed for use with aluminium reflector lamps only, replace them with the correct type - look for the symbol indicating no use of ‘cool beam’ lamps! # In this case, you need to consider using low energy lamps, such as compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) or light emitting diode lamps (LED), as they produce less heat than a traditional tungsten halogen lamp and so reduce the risk of fire. They also use less electricity.

ESC Tips - Safe disposal of the downlighter lamps

Some downlighter lamps, such as compact fluorescent lamps (CFL), displaying the crossed-out ‘wheelie bin’ symbol, must not be disposed of in general household waste. Take the lamp to a recycling facility that accepts electrical products. Check with your Local Authority for your nearest recycling centre.

This article is the second part of the ESC Guide to Downlighter Safety - read the first part, ESC advice for Downlighter Safety(1): types of downlighters and tips for installing new downlighters. You can also download this guide as a PDF file via the Downlighter Safety leaflet, or purchase online Fire Rated Downlights, Fixed Ceiling Recessed Lights or Adjustable Ceiling Recessed Lights - via the Ceiling Spotlights section.